Contact between Allied and Axis nationals in neutral countries during WWII.

Inspired by a couple of WWII threads.
What were the circumstances and conventions regarding contact between, say, an American citizen and a German in Switzerland during WWII?
What about diplomats? I understand the fact that there was no official diplomatic representation, but what would happen if a German and an American diplomat were to cross each other’s path entering or leaving a neutral embassy, for example?

Sorry if the question is obvious or silly, I’m curious and Google is failing me.

If two private civilians interacted they would be suspected of collaborating with the enemy. Two diplomats would most likely have been spying on each other, doubtful that they would “accidentally” bump into each other and if they did would most likely just whistle and walk on by. Embassy’s during the war were basically headquarters for spies, heck even without a war they are still largely headquarters for spies.

Since there hasn’t been much non-fictional response so far, I’ll just point out that the setting of Casablanca was a bar owned by an American, patronized by Germans, and overseen by Vichy French police, during the war. The US was still neutral at the time of the movie’s events, but it was clear where American sympathies lay.

I remember reading some memoir involving the goings-on in Lisbon, Portugal during WWII. It spoke of interactions between Allied and German dimplomats/agents. I don’t remember it well enough to answer your question, or to assess the accuracy of whatever I read. But maybe it gives you a specific area to research.

NM. Posted to the wrong thread.

For the life of me I can’t remember the title of the book I read a few years ago that dealt with a bomber crew interned in Switzerland. Fascinating book, though. They had to restrict their contact with Germans in the same situation or they’d all get thrown in jail.

Portugal was a nest of intrigue during the war.

The Portuguese authorities basically didn’t care about espionage as long as it wasn’t directed at Portugal itself.

I seem to remember a TV drama about the Nazis in neutral Ireland in WW2.

Keeping Ireland neutral was an challenging balancing act.

Did Allied and Axis nationals find themselves drinking in the same pubs? This seems doubtful, it wasn’t Casablanca.

During the rape of Nanking, I believe Nazi and allied personnel worked together to protect civilians from the rampaging Japanese. John Rabe, a member of the Nazi party, is said to have saved over 200,000 Chinese civilians.

This was before the war broke out between Germany and the Allies, but well into the period where the dogs of war were howling.

BOAC ran commercial flights between the UK and Lisbon for most of the war. Reasonably safely too, although the actor Leslie Howard died on one such flight that got shot down.

“Neutral” is an important military/diplomatic status, but it doesn’t mean you’re not effectively on one side or the other. Switzerland was neutral, but it was surrounded by, traded with and facilitated the Axis/Nazi/Fascists. Ireland was neutral, but in spite of the traditional antagonism was mostly neutral on the British side. Before the USA entered either WW, it was neutral mostly on the British side.

Civilian travel was largely shut down during the war. Allied and Axis nationals could find themselves drinking in the same pub if (a) they were in the same country, and (b) wanted to spend the night out in a pub catering to the other nationality.

Somewhere in all this is the makings of a really horrible retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Probably a musical.

That was a fascinating chapter in Donald Miller’s Masters of the Air. Your search word is Wauwilermoos. Despite the stereotypical war-book title, it really did seem to me to get into the reality of all aspects of the USAAF war effort, what it was really like to be in that milieu. Oh, short version is that Swiss internment camps were run by Swiss Nazis, and they did have reason for a grudge against the Yanks for some bombing attacks that went astray. Navigation wasn’t the best then.

IIRC it also had a chapter on the Swedish bearing company FAG, having to arrange pickups by the British and Germans on alternate days to prevent any unpleasantness.

You might enjoy the film Waiting for Dublin, about an American pilot and a German pilot who find themselves interned in Ireland, but … naw, spoilers.

Another film about Allied/Axis interment in Ireland is the aptly (?) titled The Brylcreem Boys.

Per this “documentary”, internees were allowed to check out and go to the local pub. Allowed for both sides*. But they had to check back in “or else”. The trick to seemingly check back in but then head off to the UK was a storyline for one character.

  • And romantic rivalry plot ensues.

I understand Max Bialystock has optioned the rights to this.

Western Front Story

I’d have to disagree that Casablanca represented anything but Hollywood’s view. Remember it was shot in 1942 when the USA was at war with Germany. (and the whole thing is a B Grade romance- exit visa’s that can’t be rescinded?)

Really, I haven’t cme across much data on the subject as by and large by the end of 1941 most countries weren’t neutral. There was obviously Sweden and Switzerland (who had refrained from shooting down German aircraft after a threat of invasion) and Turkey- most other countries were too far out of the way to care.

I would discount diplomats as they pursued their jobs.


My mother, who with her mother and sister managed to escape the Germans by paying a smuggler to get them into Switzerland from Italy, told me (on the rare times it came up) that at a visceral level she hated the Swiss even more than the Nazis, so burned in her memory was the family hiding in the bushes evading machine gun fire from the Swiss border police.

I recall from the memoirs of a bod who was in the French Resistance (read long ago, details now very blurred in my memory) who had been carrying out anti-occupiers shenanigans, involving the French / Swiss border: in some way or other, he was being pursued by Germans “of some shape or make”, waging their part in the war, and intent on thwarting him and doing him harm. The Resistance guy was, border-wise, where he legitimately might be, and the Germans weren’t: the Swiss border guard duly sent them about their business, at gunpoint.

The Resistance guy thanked him, and made ready to head back into France. The guard replied glumly, “I didn’t do it for you; I did it because it’s my job.” I suppose, maybe the guard was a Nazi sympathiser; or maybe he was just fed-up with his country’s idiot neighbours, and their complicating his life with their foolish quarrels?